Chandigarh: It was a three-man army of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, Agriculture Minister Tota Singh and Revenue Minister Bikram Majithia against Food and Civil Supplies Minister Adaish Pratap Kairon in today’s Cabinet meeting, held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
Upset over “interference” in his department, Kairon reportedly objected to directions given by Sukhbir, allowing farmers to transport paddy from grain markets to godowns in their tractor-trailers. At least three senior ministers confirmed to The Tribune regarding the high drama in the Cabinet wherein the Deputy CM refused to budge on allowing farmers to themselves transport the foodgrain to godowns.
Sukhbir held a video conference with deputy commissioners yesterday to review the paddy procurement process and the Atta-Dal scheme, besides other social security schemes. Both paddy procurement and the Akali-BJP government’s flagship Atta-Dal scheme are run by the Food and Supplies Department, headed by Kairon. Sukhbir told the deputy commissioners that the new exercise of allowing farmers to transport paddy by bypassing the “powerful” truck unions had been put in place.
When Kairon reportedly raised the matter in the meeting, held late evening, Sukhbir reasoned his decision, saying it was in the interest of farmers as the purchased grain would be lifted quickly and it would ease congestion in grain markets. As Sukhbir spoke on the issue, he was supported by Tota Singh and Majithia, who said it would be better to let the farmers transport their produce rather than make them suffer at the hands of the truck unions.
Sources said as Badal looked on, Kairon finally gave in, agreeing to let the deputy commissioner’s have the final say on the matter. It may be mentioned that during the wheat procurement earlier this year, delay in allotting tenders for transporters by the Food and Civil Supplies Department had caused a lot of harassment to farmers. The kharif marketing season is to begin on October 1 and 137 lakh tonnes of paddy is to be procured.
The Cabinet also gave approval to the recommendations of the committee formed under the Chief Secretary to resolve the issue of non-payment of dues of cane growers by private sugar mills. The government would arrange Rs200 crore loan for private sugar mills by giving state guarantee and interest subvention for three-and-a-half years.
The loan would be given with a two-year moratorium and the mills would repay it in five years. It was also decided that when the cost of production was higher than the wholesale price of sugar, the government would pay about Rs50 per quintal of the state advised price as subsidy and the sugar mills would pay Rs245 per quintal to the cane growers.